Percussionist, James Wyatt
  1. Faculty

James Lee "Trey" Wyatt, III

Percussion Coach, Coaching and Excerpts

Courses Taught

  • Private Lessons


  • MM, Temple University
  • BM, University of Michigan


  • San Francisco Symphony, 2002–Present
  • Honolulu Symphony, 1997–2001

Awards and Distinctions

  • Acting Principal, San Francisco Symphony

What is your hometown?

Princeton, KY

What is your favorite recording?

Hard to pick just one, but the Jansons recordings of Shostakovich Symphonies Nos. 10 and 11 are some of my favorites, as I heard the live performances before the recordings.

What are you passionate about outside of music?

I love to travel the world to try local, cheap food from Thailand, China, Burma, Bali, and Vietnam, all the while buying gongs from the countries. I have a percussion rental business called California Percussion Rental which is in its 15th year.

Who were your major teachers?

Alan Abel (Philadelphia Orchestra), Salvatore Rabbio (Detroit Symphony), and Michael Udow (University of Michigan).

What is a favorite quote that you repeatedly tell students?

“You have to prep! You must take a breath and prep to play with an ensemble and begin a phrase! More cushion, more arm, and more clarity!”

What question do you wish students would ask sooner rather than later?

“How hard do I need to work to win a job and be successful as an orchestral musician?”

What was the defining moment when you decided to pursue music as a career?

I went to the Interlochen Music Camp in the summer of 1989, before my senior year in high school. I had never played in an orchestra before. We were performing Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony with the World Youth Symphony and when the strings came in after the opening brass fanfare, I was blown away by the sound. I had never experienced the sound of a large string section before. I knew this was what I wanted to do!

What was a turning point in your career?

Going to Temple University and studying with Alan Abel of the Philadelphia Orchestra was a major turning point. At one time, more than 25% of percussionists in the top 20 orchestras had gone to Temple. It may even be more now. Mr. Abel had a set method of teaching and laid everything out for you. His teaching method wasn't just about winning a job, as tends to be the teaching trend today; it was about playing with the orchestra, knowing which instrument(s) you played with at all times, and about making a phrase. He taught me to never sit, you're either leading, following, or along for the ride, but never stale.

If you weren't a musician or teacher, what do you think you would be doing now?

I would focus on my businesses. I've always worked. As a kid I had a lemonade stand, mowed yards in the summer, and shoveled snow in the winter.

What is your daily practice routine?

These days it definitely varies. It's nice to get in a daily half hour of snare drum, but most days it's studying my part and making sure I'm prepared. I've definitely learned and played the repertoire many times over the past 20 years, but there's always something new to absorb! We're sponges, learning all the time, even what to do and what not to do.

If you could play only three composers for the rest of your life, who would they be?

Shostakovich, Strauss, and Beethoven.

Who are three students you have had the privilege of teaching?

Chris McLaurin, Monte Hatch, and Marty Thennel.

What recordings can we hear you on?

The Mahler Project, SFS Media